Brett felt very uncomfortable in the protective suit as he awkwardly walked to his friends, Das and Fenster, standing near the window.
'What?' Brett asked from under the protective mask as he noticed the smiles on their faces. 'What is so funny?'
'Nothing,' Das said. 'Yes nothing,' Fenster agreed still smiling. Both laughed. 'Sorry,' Fenster said,' but with the mask you sound like that Derek Vader, or that is what i was told he sound like.'
'Why me? Why does Bogenschütze not go?' Brett complained.
'He is in waffel counselling,' Fenster answered. 'Anyway, it will be adventure, it is important duty, you will be the hero of Picus Ridge!'
'Or suffocated by some strange Chota gas, if it is a Chota trap,' Brett replied worried.
'The suit will protect you,' Das added to reassure, but not succeeding. 'Anyway Chota do not make gas, well.... not that sort of gas...'
'Why is there Duct tape on this suit,' Brett asked still worried.
'That is from-' began Fenster. 'Decoration, that is all,' Das interrupted.
'Decoration?' Brett muttered. 'I have bad feelings about this.'
* * * *
'Bonjour Madame Fromage!' Veronica said cheerfully to the woman standing at a market stall on the edge of New Flagstaff. 'How are you?'
'Bonjour Veronica,' the woman , who Veronica liked to call Madame Fromage, replied with a smile. 'I am good, merci. I 'ave been travelling from town to town, selling my cheese.'
'What do you have to sell today?' Veronica asked excited.
'I 'ave some wonderful cheese today. A soft creamy one and another one, strong smell yes, but so very tasty. Vraiment, c'est merveilleux! Would you like to try?'
'Yes please!' Veronica said with enthusiasm.
* * * *
'I am going in,' Brett said. The crowd around the Bunker Bar enterance hole watched Brett slowly climb down the ladder and disappear below. Nearby Das turned a dial on a radio equipment, 'Can you hear us?' he shouted into a microphone.
'Aggh, not so loud!' replied the voice of Brett on the radio. Someone in the crowd laughed. Das turned another dial.
Carefully Brett walked down the steps underground. He did not trust the duct tape on the protective suit. Decoration it was not, he was sure. He remembered not so many steps, one after the other, but eventually he reached the door to the bar. 'I am there,' he said into the microphone in the protective mask. He took a deep breathe. 'I am going in.' He pushed the door open and entered.
* * * *
A half hour later Veronica said good bye to Madame Fromage and walked away with a paper bag of cheese which she placed in her rucksack with her paper and pen. She walked to her buggy, time to visit Picus Ridge to meet a man in the Bunker Bar who wants a new battery. Time to go now.
Veronica arrived a little late but it was no problem because the man was also late. She bought a purple soda and sat at a table to wait. A few minutes passed, still the man did not appear. People walking passed kept looking at her? Were they wondering who she wait for? Was something wrong with her hair? She felt her hair, all good. A man walking with a drink stopped and examined the bottom of his boot. She knew realised what it was. The cheese. It must be the cheese. She opened her rucksack. Yes, it was the cheese. More people stared.
'You must be Veronica,' a man said approaching her. 'I am here to talk about the battery. Would you like another drink before we begin?'
'Thank you,' Veronica said. 'A soda please. The purple one.'
'Purple?' the man said looking at her before smiling. 'Of course.' He turned to walk to the bar counter but stopped and looked back. 'Do you smell something?'
'No,' Veronica lied. 'Perhaps something from outside?'
'Perhaps, the man said before walking to the bar counter.
Once he was gone, Veronica quickly removed the bag of cheese from her rucksack and hid it behind a nearby empty table in the corner. It will be safe for a few minutes, she thought, away from worried noses.
* * * *
The bar was creepy like this. No people, but signs of people. Glasses and bottles half full on tables, plates of unfinished food. People had left quickly, wanting to escape this danger, whatever it was. Even behind the protective mask he could smell it, something powerful, something dangerous. Lights flashed on machines, making strange shadows on the walls. There was a crash and he screamed.
'Are you okay? Brett! Brett! Are you hurt?' the voice of Das filled with concern.
Brett breathed deep then answered,. 'I am okay, it was only a bottle rolling off the counter. It surprised me. I am okay.'
There was a second of two Pause as Das and the others above calmed from the alarm. 'Do you see it?' the voice of Fenster asked on the radio.
'Not yet,' Brett said. The smell is stronger here, he thought, in this corner. He approached the table. Was there something behind it?
'I think i see something, he said to the microphone in his mask.
He moved closer. Yes, there was something. A paper bag. He bended his knees and carefully and slowly opened the bag a little. There was something inside. Certainly, suspicious. He opened the bag a little more. Cheese. It was cheese.
* * * *
Veronica drank the last drop of the soda. 'Thank you Veronica,' the man said. 'Let me know when the battery is ready.'
'I will send a message when it is ready,' Veronica before putting her notepaper and pen back into her rucksack said. The man stood from his chair and Veronica did the same.
'Are you staying in Picus today?' the man asked as they prepared to leave.
'No,' Veronica replied as they walked to the door. 'I return to the lab in New Flagstaff, there are things i need in my corner.'
'Corner?' the man asked.
* * * *
Brett emerged from the bunker bar ladder and stepped forward. 'What was it?' someone called out.
There was a flash from one of the Tech cameras as Brett said "Cheese."
'Cheese?' said a surprised man scraping some ant dung from his boot.
'Yes cheese,' Brett said. 'Smelly cheese.'
Veronica saw the crowd of people near the bunker bar entrance as she parked the buggy. She joined the crowd. A man was standing in front of them holding something.
'What is happened?' Veronica asked a woman next to her. 'Is that Brett? Why is he wearing that protective suit?'
The woman looked to Veronica. 'Did you not hear of it?' she asked.
'Of what?' Veronica replied. 'I only just arrived. I left my-'
'Cheese,' the woman said. 'It was because of cheese. Sorry, what did you say? What had you left?'
'Err,' Veronica hesitated. 'My... errr... notebook. I left my notebook.'